Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A man's got to know his limitations

I had heard many years ago that suicides by gun outnumber homicides by gun in the U.S., but I had not seen it in print for so long that I had begun to doubt my memory and my sourcing. The risk to loved ones and myself is one reason I don't keep my .22 rifle, a legacy from my grandfather, in my house.

Here's the approximate breakdown of fatalities (in 2005):

  • suicides - 17,000
  • criminal homicides - 12,500
  • accidents - 900
  • putatively righteous shootings, most by cops - 600
What does this prove about gun control and the Constitution? Not necessarily anything; it's just some facts.

15 comments:

Mike W. said...

The reason firearms are used in so many suicides is simple. As the study shows, firearms are 90% effective. It should come as no surprise that those who are really serious about killing themselves (rather than using suicide as a plea for attention) will use an effective tool.

Unless you have reason to believe your family members are suicidal there's no reason not to keep that .22 rifle in your house. If you really think they might kill themselves if a gun were present you might want to think about getting them some help.

lovable liberal said...

I'm sure all those 17,000 suicides thought they were safe when they decided to keep their guns at home. I mean, most of them were despondent, and it would have passed, but owning a gun kept them from having the chance to come to their senses.

I suppose in your view they get what they want, so why try to prevent that?

Look, you're 22. (Yes, I read your profile.) In time, you may understand that the passage of time brings unexpected happenstance that you may not be able to foresee.

As a self-described gun nut, you may find that the reward of keeping a gun outweighs the risks (or you may deny the risks affect you), but I don't see much reward to weigh against the very small risk of something epochally damaging.

Mike W. said...

Let me ask you this. Is it the government's job to keep suicidal people safe? Should we restrict gun ownership and 2nd Amendment rights because of a few thousand suicides? Furthermore, if one has a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" don't they also have a natural right to end their own life?

I have no problem with trying to prevent suicide through counseling and other means, but not as an excuse for gun control. Those who push gun control never stop, because their ultimate goal is civilian disarmament.

There are an estimated 120 million gun owners in this country. Why should they face more laws, more restrictions, and be blamed because a statistically insignificant number of people choose to off themselves with a firearm?

Law abiding gun owners are always scapegoats for shit that has absolutely nothing to do with them.

We live in a free country. The freedoms and rights we enjoy are not without both responsibility and risk. I accept that risk because I value freedom.

I've had some difficult times in my life, and even though I didn't own any guns I could have killed myself easily had I wanted too, but I did not. It had nothing to do with access to a weapon and everything to do with the fact that I wasn't suicidal. I mean you could blow your brains out with a rented gun at any shooting range if you wanted to.

lovable liberal said...

If 17,000 deaths are "statistically insignificant", why did we care about the 9/11 attacks? Answer: They are not statistically insignificant. 17,000 deaths is getting close to a week's worth of deaths in the U.S. Still, I posted this item as information only from the beginning.

If the government (that is, us) has a role in cancer research - and I think it does, though I would guess you would leave that to the sacred market (which doesn't really exist) - then as a public health matter, the government does have a role in suicide prevention.

How that role takes the Second Amendment into account is an important question - and, no, not an easy one - but regulation of gun ownership is certainly within the text of the amendment.

I agree that the decision to end one's life ought to be a personal prerogative, but I want it to be a settled, rational decision, not the passing impulse of a moment. I know people in the terminal stages of cancer who have been relieved that they had stockpiled enough morphine to kill themselves, for example. Taking a week of hopeless misery off one's own lifespan doesn't seem bad to me, though surrendering to treatable on the other hand depression does.

I've also had a cousin who died by gun by his own hand, and that was a tragedy. I think he was tired of being a screw-up, but I know his son and his widow would ardently prefer a live screw-up to a dead, possibly expiated one.

Mike W. said...

"How that role takes the Second Amendment into account is an important question - and, no, not an easy one - but regulation of gun ownership is certainly within the text of the amendment"

As are the all but forgotten words "Shall not be infringed."

I have no problem with restricting access to those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution, violent felons, and those convicted of domestic violence. Of course those laws are already on the books.

Do you think the governments role in suicide prevention allows for restrictions on 2nd Amendment rights? If so this means you find it OK to impose restrictions on 120 million people because 17,000 decided to shoot themselves.

Government has a legitimate interest in stopping terrorism, but that doesn't mean we throw freedom of religion under the bus because of the threat of islamic extremists.

Likewise getting rid of or severely restricting 4th and 5th amendment rights might make society safer by reducing crime. We understand however, that those rights are too important to ignore in the name of "fighting crime." Higher crime or letting a guilty man go free is an acceptable risk when compared to retaining our rights. Why should the 2nd Amendment be treated any differently?

Also "regulation" is not within the text of the Amendment. As the SCOTUS said (and it is obvious) "well-regulated" has never meant "regulated by government." It meant "well trained and well armed."

Not to mention that it would be inconceivable for the amendment to simultaneously declare that the right "shall not be infringed" while granting government the power to infringe upon it. This is particularly true since governments have "powers" not rights and rights can only ever be individual in nature.

lovable liberal said...

More to come, but meanwhile here's something to chew on that may clarify my position. Not that you'll like it any better...

Mike W. said...

One of my major points made above is this.

Your premise falls apart when you look at the other Amendments and consider what a similar "reasonable" approach would mean if applied to those amendments the way gun control is applied to the 2nd.

The "public safety" argument falls apart under such scrutiny, and the 2nd should be treated with no less respect than the 1st, 4th, 5th etc.

lovable liberal said...

Shout 'fire' in a crowded theater and see how fast public safety reasonably restricts the speech clause of the First Amendment. Or incite a riot. Or lie to an FBI agent. Or make deceptive statements about your publicly traded business. Etc.

Because the free assembly clause specifies 'peaceably', it doesn't run into public safety problems, and the restrictions that the government has often put on it (e.g. during the 2004 RNC in New York).

The establishment of religion clause also has often and reasonably been restricted for public safety, particularly the safety of young girls from predatory polygamists. I happen to believe that the peyote ceremonies of the southwestern native Americans should not be restricted, but they were made under some public interest derived from keeping anyone from having drug experiences (so clearly I believe that public safety is not overriding in every case).

The Fourth Amendment and public safety exceptions are much in dispute right now. There's clear and reasonable precedent for suspension of it (as well as habeas corpus) in time of insurrection, though of course the Bushists (whom you think are better than Clinton) have gone waaaaay too far, to the point that the Fourth hardly exists any more.

Same for the Fifth. Your guys in the White House think torture is fine. If that's not compelled self-incrimination, I don't know what is. But, you're right about one thing - I'm against Guantánamo. The Fifth has some public safety exceptions built in.

The world is a more complicated place than you think it is. We're often compelled to balance competing interests. Public safety is one competing interest.

I have a guess about you, though I haven't yet read your piece explaining why you're "mean". Here's my guess: You read Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead and were seduced by their simplicity.

The real world is much more messy and gray, not nearly so neatly black and white, and Ayn Rand was completely full of crap.

Anonymous said...

We need an amendment to the Constitution
Called the Right to Own and Maintain a Automobile.

There are over 40,000 Drunk related Driving deaths
in America annually. With those staggering numbers. Cars should be banned. Not to mention all the carbon they dump into the air.

Soon, our right to own a car will be under attack.
We as Americans need to stand united. To Start the "Automobile Protection Act". This Gun Control thing is a smoke screen to setup a leftwing attack on our right to own a car.

Anonymous said...

We also need the "The Trampoline Protection Act"
Since 1990 there have been 6 Reported cases of Trampoline deaths. With those Numbers, We need to ban all Backyard trampolines!!! Wake Up America!

Anonymous said...

We also Need the "Llama/Alpaca Protection Act"
Soon these animals plan to take over the world.

We need guns to prevent this, I've seen the late night commercials, where Alpacas befriend these people. Then these people quit their day jobs to take care of the Alpacas.

We need guns and we need them now - it is time for a Change!

lovable liberal said...

Take your seatbelt out and put a spike on your steering wheel. Lace the tip with curare. Go driving.

Now that would be libertarian paradise. Also a Darwin Award competitor.

Mike W. said...

Shout 'fire' in a crowded theater and see how fast public safety reasonably restricts the speech clause of the First Amendment. Or incite a riot."

Right, the crowded theater example. Gun control is like cutting out my tongue to prevent me from shouting fire. Using the 1st in those ways is directly infringing upon the rights and safety of others and thus can be restricted.

How does my carrying a pistol or owning an "assault rifle" compare, since I'm not undertaking an action that threatens the rights of others or "public safety?"

Mike W. said...

Gun control consists of a priori restrictions on my rights without the government having shown a compelling reason to restrict my rights. The fact that a bunch of hoodlums in the inner city keep killing eachother with guns isn't a compelling reason to restrict my rights, or the rights of any other law-abiding citizen.

lovable liberal said...

Despite your hysterical metaphor, you still have your tongue/gun.